A Transistor Museum Interview with Joe D’Airo

Transistor History at Trans-Aire Electronics Inc

Curator’s Introduction

● Trans-Aire actively promoted the “Buy American” approach to radio sales.   Using foreign parts for U.S. assembly, many Trans-Aire radios were stamped “Made in the U.S.A.” Hong Kong manufactured radios used transistor “fallouts” labeled “Made in USA”. 


● During the 1960s, many radio manufacturers touted the number of transistors used in a radio as a marketing benefit, with the unstated assumption that more transistors is an indication of higher performance.   One interesting result of this approach is that some companies would increase the transistor count in a radio by installing “dummy” or un-connected transistors on the circuit board, and include these non-functional devices in the total transistor count.  Another approach would be to use only two leads of a transistor (making it a diode) and still include in the count.  Trans-Aire used techniques such as these in some of their 1960s radio models.


● Another important factor in Trans-Aire’s success during the very difficult transistor radio business conditions of the 1950s/60s was the experienced senior engineering staff at the company.  Three names of note are: (1) Erich Gottleib, chief engineer, and former GE consultant and developer of the radio circuits in the GE Transistor Manuals, (2) Leonard D’Airo, RF engineer, and author of numerous 1960s industry transistor articles and (3) Roland Wittenburg, who was a Trans-Aire principal and founder, and who had previous transistor engineering experience at the Radio Receptor company. 



Curator’s Introduction


Shown above is a section of a package insert for a mid 1960s Saxony transistor radio.  As noted earlier, Saxony was one of the Trans-Aire house brands, and the “Trans-Aire Electronics Inc” corporate logo appears at the upper left of this insert. In addition, the text “By Trans-Aire” appears as a small logo on the actual radio front plate, just below the Saxony name.  This specific radio is well made, uses six “fallout” germanium transistors (four of these are GE tophats), and still plays well after almost 40 years.  All six transistors are connected and functioning as transistors. A schematic is pasted to the inside back case, and is marked “Printed in U.S.A.”  The back of the plastic radio case is stamped “Made in U.S.A.” and two of the transistors have paper labels with part numbers and the text “Made in U.S.A.”   This is a classic Trans-Aire 1960s radio!



Go To D'Airo Oral History, Page 3

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